Agent: Calls overwhelming after draft about King

April 27, 2009
Iowa's Mitch King shouts as he addresses the crowd during the Hawkeye Huddle at the Tampa Convention Center on Dec. 30, 2008, in Tampa, Fla. At right is Gary Dolphin. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)t

Iowa's Mitch King shouts as he addresses the crowd during the Hawkeye Huddle at the Tampa Convention Center on Dec. 30, 2008, in Tampa, Fla. At right is Gary Dolphin. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — An abormally high volume of calls came in moments after the draft for former Iowa defensive tackle Mitch King, according to his agent, Richard Rosa.

“We weren’t dealing with scouts,” Rosa said. “We were dealing with coaches, general managers … at least two team presidents called him personally and said, ‘That’s a guy we have to have.’ There was tremendous interest for him.”

“I can’t deny that there were teams lining up. He had an unbelievable amount of interest from teams. Ultimately, Mitch got to pick the spot.”

Rosa said King chose Tennessee because he felt most comfortable with defensive line coach Jim Washburn, who is known for his fiery temperment.

“The bottom line is Mitch King is a tremendous football player,” Rosa said. “One day he’ll have his day and he’ll say, ‘I told you so.’”

One day after Mitch King was left unwanted by NFL officials, one draft analyst said the slight might benefit King in the long run.

“He was much better off going undrafted than it would have been to go in the sixth or seventh round,” said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock on Monday. “At least he had an opportunity to make some decisions as to where he wanted to go.”

Illinois' quarterback Eddie McGee (10) lets go of the ball as he is hit by Iowa's Mitch King (47) during the second half Oct. 13, 2007 at Kinnick Stadium.  Iowa beat No. 18 Illinois 10-6. (AP Photo/Brian Ray)

Illinois' quarterback Eddie McGee (10) lets go of the ball as he is hit by Iowa's Mitch King (47) during the second half Oct. 13, 2007 at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa beat No. 18 Illinois 10-6. (AP Photo/Brian Ray)

The Tennessee Titans signed King, 22, Sunday night to a free-agent deal. Most draft experts expected King, a Burlington native, to be drafted anywhere from rounds three through five. Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Services LLC., listed King as the fourth-best defensive tackle and a third-round pick. The Sporting News listed King as a fifth-round selection.

“Boy he could slip as far as six, but it would surprise me,” Shonka said before the draft. “You’re talking about (rounds) three to four and if he fell below that, it’s really a bonus to some team. He’s a third-, fourth-round caliber player.”

King ranks among the most productive defensive players in Iowa football history. He was named the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year. He had 15.5 tackles for loss last year, including four sacks. He had 54 tackles, six quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles. He was named a second-team All-American by the Associated Press and first-team All-American by ESPN. He also was Iowa’s co-MVP and named a permanent team captain.

But King’s size seemed to concern most NFL teams. He stands 6 feet, 1 inch and weighs 280 pounds. For most teams, he’s too light to play defensive tackle, too big to play linebacker and not explosive enough to play defensive end.

“Whether it’s fair or not, he’s perceived as a tweener,” Mayock said. “You compare him, for instance, to a (Iowa cornerback) Bradley Fletcher, who had much less production, was nowhere near the player at Iowa. But when the NFL takes a look at those two players, Bradley Fletcher gets overdrafted because he’s a height, weight, speed guy, fits all the numbers they’re looking for and despite all of Mitch’s production, NFL teams look at him and say. ‘Where do we play him?’”

Tennessee might be the ultimate beneficiary. The Titans finished with the NFL’s best record last year at 13-3 but lost All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth in free agency. The Titans are unsettled at defensive tackle and have multiple players with King’s dimensions at the position.

“We were surprised when he went undrafted,” Titans scout Mike Ackerley said. “Mitch is a high-energy, high-motor player. He is aggressive at the defensive tackle spot and a really good football player.”

King was one of eight Iowa players getting an NFL opportunity. Fletcher and running back Shonn Greene were drafted in the third round by St. Louis and the New York Jets, respectively. Denver drafted guard Seth Olsen in the fourth round by Denver, while Oakland picked tight end Brandon Myers in the sixth. Center Rob Bruggeman (Tampa Bay), defensive tackle Matt Kroul (New York Jets) and wide receiver Andy Brodell (Green Bay) all signed free-agent deals.

Mayock said King might benefit from playing with a group of veteran player and King might compare favorably with Tennessee’s other rookies at defensive tackle.

“Tennessee took a defensive tackle late in the second round, a kid out of Auburn, named Sen’Derrick Marks,” Mayock said. “And to be honest with you, he’s another one of those height, weight guys. He looks good, but I thought came out a year early. And he’s a kid that is inconsistent, whereas Mitch King will show up at every practice with an attitude.

“I really believe Mitch King, whether it’s this year or next year, will find a way on to an NFL roster.”


Olsen, Brodell look for an NFL shot

April 24, 2009
Iowa offensive lineman Seth Olsen talks to reporters during Iowa's annual football media day, Aug. 4, 2008, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Iowa offensive lineman Seth Olsen talks to reporters during Iowa's annual football media day, Aug. 4, 2008, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

IOWA CITY — Dan Shonka describes former Iowa guard Seth Olsen as a finished product.

That doesn’t mean Olsen, 23, is ready to pound the likes of NFL defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth anytime soon. But Olsen can step into just about any offensive scheme and understand what the offensive line coach is talking about.

“Olsen can put his hat on you,” said Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Services, LLC. “He can block in the zone-blocking scheme, he can run his feet into you, he’s smart, he’s aggressive, he does a lot of good things.”

“We like him, he’s liked by a lot of offensive line coaches. He’s definitely a guy with ability to block in zone schemes, he’s valued for that and his understanding of zone blocking schemes.”

Shonka ranks Olsen (6 feet, 4 1/2 inches, 306 pounds) as the 11th-best guard in this draft. Shonka said has got “pretty good first-step quickness” but “he could use a little more body strength.” Shonka projects Olsen as a fifth-round pick going to Indianapolis.

Olsen was voted a first-team all-Big Ten offensive lineman by both the league’s coaches and media outlets. He was named to four different All-American squads, including first-team by Rivals.com.

Former Iowa wide receiver Andy Brodell (6-3, 200) also is vying to make an NFL club. Shonka said Brodell reminds him of former Iowa receiver Kevin Kasper, who covered and returned kicks for several different NFL teams.

“If (Brodell) could go down and make tackles on special teams, coverage teams and be your fourth or fifth receiver, he’ll have a shot at making a ballclub,” Shonka said. “A lot of times you can’t find that third, fourth or fifth receiver that can make a tackle on a special team.”

Brodell’s top performance came in the 2006 Alamo Bowl, where he caught six passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns. But in 2007, he suffered a torn hamstring against Wisconsin and missed the final eight games.

Brodell totaled 961 yards last year. He caught 36 passes for 533 yards and four touchdowns. He was named the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week after an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown clinched Iowa’s 17-5 win against Iowa State.


Greene has detractors, but he’s confident

April 23, 2009
Iowa's Shonn Greene flips into the end zone for a touchdown during the second quarter of the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., Jan. 1, 2009.   (Jonathan D. Woods/The Gazette)

Iowa's Shonn Greene flips into the end zone for a touchdown during the second quarter of the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., Jan. 1, 2009. (Jonathan D. Woods/ The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Shonn Greene unanimously was declared the nation’s best running back last fall.

He won the Doak Walker Award, which annually is given to college football’s best running back. He was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. He was a consensus All-American.

Greene, 23, finished with 1,850 yards and 20 touchdowns, both school records at Iowa. He ran for at least 100 yards in all 13 Iowa games last season and combined both speed and power rarely found in collegiate running backs.

“He’s fast, and he’s big, and he’s a pro,” said former Purdue defensive coordinator Brock Spack, who now is the head coach at Illinois State. “He’s the best back in this conference — bar none. There’s no contest.”

Greene’s college accolades have failed to vault him into the NFL first-round draft discussion. Whether it’s his size (5 feet, 9 inches, 227 pounds), a year of academic ineligibility, only one proven collegiate season or difficulty catching the ball out of the backfield, someone always has something negative to say about Greene.

“I like his running skills. I wish he were a better receiver,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “Catching the football out of the backfield is something he needs to work. If he was a little more complete, he’d be guaranteed a second-round pick.”

Kiper lists Greene anywhere from the NFL draft’s second through fourth rounds. Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Service, LLC., lists Greene as the fourth-best running back entering the draft.

Like Kiper, Shonka is concerned about Greene’s pass-catching skills. But Greene’s downhill running style and experience of running the ball in a zone-blocking scheme could elevate him into the second round.

“A lot of teams run a zone-blocking scheme, and Shonn is perfect because that’s what they teach at Iowa,” Shonka said. “The offensive line is taught pro techniques at Iowa. Shonn is a downhill one-cut runner, so he’s going to fit in a lot of different schemes.

“Obviously, I think the thing that concerns people about Shonn is his ability to block and to catch ball out of the backfield. But they just didn’t throw it to him a lot. And when they did, he kind of fumbled it or double caught it, or he wasn’t smooth catching the ball.”

Greene caught eight passes for 49 yards last season.

In February, Greene struggled in measurable categories at the NFL Combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.66 seconds, but then cut that time to anywhere from 4.59 to 4.50 seconds at Iowa’s pro day, depending on the stopwatches. He also increased his 225-pound bench press repetitions from 19 at the NFL Combine to 23 at Iowa’s pro day.

“I feel like I had a very good day,” Greene said after his pro day workout. “I did everything better than I did at the combine. I ran faster, lifted more reps with the bench, did pro agility faster. I think I did pretty good, caught the ball well.”

Iowa running back Shonn Greene removes athletic wrap from his feet after practice at the University of Tampa on Dec. 26, 2008, in Tampa. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Iowa running back Shonn Greene removes athletic wrap from his feet after practice at the University of Tampa on Dec. 26, 2008, in Tampa. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Shonka slotted Greene as a second-round pick to Houston and provide a 1-2 punch with second-year running back Steve Slaton. Kiper raved about Greene’s intangibles when running the football.

“Greene, I think, is a running back,” Kiper said. “You like his determination. I like the low center of gravity, the way he ran with power between the tackles, good balance as well. I like his running skills; I wish he were a better receiver.”

Greene, a junior last season, was ruled academically ineligible for the 2007 season and went to Kirkwood Community College to regain his eligibility. He was on pace to graduate before he declared to enter the NFL draft.

Greene shrugs off the experts’ criticism and instead points to his production last year.

“If you look at the stats and all that, it will tell you that I’m the top back,” Greene said. “You look at some of those guys that I went head-to-head with and some of them I faced the same defense, and I did much better. I’m not worried about that. Whoever takes me is going to get a good running back.”


Combine snub motivates Kroul toward NFL

April 21, 2009
Iowa defensive lineman Matt Kroul carries the Heartland Trophy off the field after the Hawkeyes' win over Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium on Oct. 18, 2008, in Iowa City. Iowa won 38-16. Iowa won, 38-16. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Iowa defensive lineman Matt Kroul carries the Heartland Trophy off the field after the Hawkeyes' win over Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium on Oct. 18, 2008, in Iowa City. Iowa won 38-16. Iowa won, 38-16. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — It’s hard to overlook Matt Kroul’s impact to the Iowa football program.

The Mount Vernon native started a school-record 50 straight games. That’s every game for Iowa’s last four seasons, including three bowls. He has an award roll in Iowa’s spring prospectus that includes the Big Ten Conference Sportsmanship Award, permanent team captain status and second-team all-Big Ten honors by the league’s media outlets.

However, lost in his long list of accolades, was his name from the NFL Combine in February.

“After some of the stuff I had done, it was disappointing,” Kroul said. “But at the same time, it opened my eyes to keep working, and keep on … I figure, hopefully, for the next few years of my life to just keep competing every day, I took it heart, too, I guess.”

Kroul thought about the slight when he met with Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle. Getting left out stung Kroul.

“I used it as motivation and make the most of things on my pro day,” Kroul said. “Hopefully I put good enough numbers up there that there’s more interest.

“Yeah, it hurt a little bit, but at the same time, you just kind of roll with things and go on.”

Kroul, 23, finished his Iowa career with 238 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He’s forever linked with fellow defensive tackle Mitch King, with whom he paired in the starting lineup for 45 games. Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz often references “King and Kroul” when talking about leadership and work ethic, whether it’s in a spring practice or a game.

“From my vantage point, he’s a guy that’s going to make someone’s team better and help them win football games,” Ferentz said.

“I’ve had several people say they were really impressed with him,” Ferentz said. “It’s going to be him finding the right spot, right place, right time.”

Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Services, LLC., graded Kroul as a seventh-round pick despite Kroul not receiving a combine invitation. Shonka said Kroul has several intangibles teams are looking for, including his physical skills.

“He’s an excellent technique player,” Shonka said. “He can run those guards back; he can drive them back,. He uses his hands really well, he keeps a low pad level, he’s instinctive. …”

“If you study Iowa’s tapes, he’s one of those guys that’s always in the picture frame, He’s always around the ball. I think that he does so many good things.”

Kroul has improved his stature with a strong showing at Iowa’s pro day in March. He’s up to 291 pounds and stands nearly 6 feet, 1.5 inches. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.99 seconds and bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times.

“If Matt Kroul gets signed as a free agent, he’s going to be a steal for somebody,” Shonka said. “Because, again, there’s not a lot of true 4-3 tackles out there because there’s so many of the nose tackle types. Matt would fit right in that 4-3 scheme.”

The Sporting News listed Kroul as a priority free agent for teams. The magazine touted Kroul as a punishing tackler who “wants to be in on every play … a hard-nosed player who shows intelligence and toughness.” The magazine’s assessment of Kroul is “he’s limited at the next level, (but) he’ll make it tough for a team to cut him.”

Iowa defensive tackle Matt Kroul takes down Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer during the fourth quarter at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Oct. 27, 2007. (JONATHAN D. WOODS/THE GAZETTE)

Iowa defensive tackle Matt Kroul takes down Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer during the fourth quarter at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Oct. 27, 2007. (JONATHAN D. WOODS/THE GAZETTE)

Kroul has heard from several teams interested in either drafting him or signing him to a free-agent contract after the draft. Kroul is confident he’ll get a chance to play in the NFL either way.

“I don’t want to be arrogant or anything, but I’ve done enough the last four years that I should be able to compete with these guys,” Kroul said. “It’s definitely going to be enjoyable. I’ll be looking forward to doing that.”

This weekend, Kroul plans to enjoy the time with his family when he shifts from college to pro player. His thoughts range from “stressful” to “exciting” to “satisfying” when thinking about his journey from Mount Vernon all-stater to Iowa four-year starter to the NFL. He also said the gathering won’t be “too flamboyant.”

“All it takes is one team,” he said.


Fletch a rising star on NFL draft charts

April 21, 2009
Purdue's Greg Orton, left, looks to make a reception over Iowa defender Bradley Fletcher (29) during the first half on their game Nov. 15, 2008 in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Purdue's Greg Orton, left, looks to make a reception over Iowa defender Bradley Fletcher (29) during the first half on their game Nov. 15, 2008 in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

IOWA CITY — Bradley Fletcher keeps a low profile, doesn’t say much but does so in an articulate manner.

In many ways, Fletcher’s play at cornerback reflect his outward impression. He’s confident, assertive and talented. His personal drive, combined with physical skills and a solid work ethic have parlayed Fletcher into one of the fastest risers in this year’s NFL draft. It also could land the former Iowa defensive back a spot in the first three rounds this weekend.

“He’s a guy that we kind of call one of the sleepers in this draft,” said Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Service, LLC. “He’s got loose hips, he’s smooth in transition. We’re going to give a third- or fourth-round grade at the very worst. We think he should be a third-round guy.”

Fletcher, 22, has been one of Iowa’s most traveled players in recent weeks and has met with multiple NFL teams, including the New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. He said he’s worked on his speed and quickness since the end of Iowa’s football season, and the results are proven.

Fletcher ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds at the NFL Combine in February. He shaved off a little more time at Iowa’s pro day last month, running it in 4.44 seconds. He’s a good-sized cornerback at slightly taller than 6 feet and weighing nearly 200 pounds.

Shonka grades Fletcher 14th among cornerbacks, but he’s the second-tallest among those players. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. lists Fletcher ninth among cornerbacks and has Jacksonville selecting him in the third round.

Fletcher’s draft stock soared with East-West Shrine Bowl in January. He recorded six tackles — including three solo — and he broke up one pass. His play and athletic ability launched him into the discussion as a potential man-to-man NFL cornerback.

“He was at least one of the best corners, if not the best corner there,” Shonka said. “He played really fast, he was impressive when he drives on the ball. The thing that was impressive about him at the combine was his ability to turn and run. That is supposed to correlate with your 40 time. A lot of guys didn’t run the drill real well, and Fletcher, his times were like 4.47, which obviously correlated with his 40 time.

“His back peddle turn and run was 4.46 and 4.46 which is outstanding. Plus he’s got long arms and can leap. His runs were real smooth in his turns. He’s very athletic.”

Fletcher started 17 games for Iowa, including all 13 his senior season. He recorded 152 tackles, including 60 last year. He had three interceptions last season and 10 pass breakups. He totaled five interceptions and 17 breakups in his Iowa career.

Minnesota's Tray Herndon, left, is upended by Iowa's Bradley Fletcher after making a reception during the first half, Nov. 10, 2007, in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa won 21-16. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Minnesota's Tray Herndon, left, is upended by Iowa's Bradley Fletcher after making a reception during the first half, Nov. 10, 2007, in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa won 21-16. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

“You get a sense there’s a lot of interest in him,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Fletcher spent most of his off-season speed training to prepare for the combine. As the draft approaches this weekend, his focus is on conditioning.

As for any indications where the Youngstown, Ohio native might go, Fletcher is taking it in stride.

“I have no idea right now,” Fletcher said. “I’m just going into it open minded and see what happens.”

Along with speed and size, Fletcher’s athletic ability is a plus. He recorded a vertical jump of 38.5 inches, third-best among the top 14 corners on Shonka’s board.

“As Deion Sanders used to say, ‘I don’t need that playbook, I’ve got that guy right there,’” Shonka said. “That’s what Fletcher can do. I think he’s a third- or fourth-round guy. And if he goes later, somebody got a steal.”


And now, the waiting game for Bruggeman

April 20, 2009
Rob Bruggeman runs to the fan section to sing the Iowa fight song after their 31-10 victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks at the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., Jan. 1, 2009.   (Jonathan D. Woods/The Gazette)

Rob Bruggeman runs to the fan section to sing the Iowa fight song after their 31-10 victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks at the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., Jan. 1, 2009. (Jonathan D. Woods/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Rob Bruggeman views his transition from college football to the NFL in the same vein he once did when he entered the University of Iowa five years ago.

“Coming in here nobody thought I could play D-I football at the time,” Bruggeman said. “I’m sure plenty of people think I’m too small, too whatever to play NFL football. You just go in with the mentality that you’re good enough, and you’re ready to play.”

Bruggeman, 23, originally walked on at Iowa and paid his way for three years before earning a scholarship in spring practice before his junior season. He built himself into a team leader by his senior year, earning permanent captain status for the offense. Bruggeman, who graduated last December with a degree in finance, ended the season with second-team all-Big Ten status at center by the league’s coaches and media.

But none of those honors matter to him now. Bruggeman, like all NFL prospects, is playing the waiting game. Until he sees his name announced as a draft pick this weekend, he’s keeping busy to avoid the typical anxiety that captures football players before the draft.

“Everything is done that I can do as of this point,” Bruggeman said. “I just keep working out, trying to stay in shape. And what happens, happens; there’s not a lot I can do from here on out. The film is set, I’ve done the interviews … I’m just trying to not think about it too much.”

Bruggeman’s journey the NFL began at Cedar Rapids Washington, where he was an all-state player his final two years. He received little attention from colleges and decided to walk on at Iowa.

Rob Bruggeman (at center) leads Cedar Rapids Washington out of the locker room of the UNI-Dome prior to the Class 4A Championship game against West Des Moines Valley in Cedar Falls on Nov. 21, 2003.

Rob Bruggeman (at center) leads Cedar Rapids Washington out of the locker room of the UNI-Dome prior to the Class 4A Championship game against West Des Moines Valley in Cedar Falls on Nov. 21, 2003.

“I was surprised he didn’t get a shot out of high school,” said Chuck Bruggeman, Rob’s father. “I knew if he got a chance to play there that he would deliver.

“It was never the goal to earn a scholarship. It was never to make the team. His goal was to get the starting position.”

Bruggeman’s opportunity came last season. He delivered for Iowa, starting every game and becoming the unit’s vocal leader. He started every game and impressed his coaches. Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said Bruggeman surprised him with his durability and even with some of his mistakes.

“He’s only been a one-year starter; we had to remind ourselves of that,” Ferentz said. “He’s a highly intelligent guy, very competitive. He played well on film.”

Bruggeman is projected as a possible seventh-round draft pick or priority free agent by many scouting services. As for accolades, NFLDraftScout.com describes Bruggeman as an “ascending player with good overall technique.” The Sporting News touted Bruggeman’s “flexibility, body control and balance.”

Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Services LLC., listed Bruggeman as a priority free agent. Shonka said the depth at center makes Bruggeman’s draft chances difficult.

“Obviously, he’s a hard worker,” Shonka said. “All of his intangibles are excellent. He’s well thought of … he’s going to go to a camp. He may be taken late, and he’s certainly going to be signed as a free agent, but which is not bad either because you pick your team where you might fit, where you have a chance of making a ballclub.”

Bruggeman stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 293 pounds, a little light for many NFL clubs. But he ran the 40-yard dash at Iowa’s pro day in 4.97 seconds and bench pressed 225 pounds 32 times. Bruggeman also could play guard if necessarily.

To Ferentz, Bruggeman is a leader, a value NFL teams will accept once he dons their helmet next week.

“I can think of three guys that I had association with during my time in the NFL that he’s better than, and all those guys played nine or 10 years,” said Ferentz, a former NFL offensive line coach with the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. “He belongs, he’ll find a spot. I don’t know how he’s going to get there, but once he gets on a team, I just can’t see him getting cut.”

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, right, hugs center Rob Bruggeman after the Hawkeyes beat South Carolina 31-10 in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, 2009 in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, right, hugs center Rob Bruggeman after the Hawkeyes beat South Carolina 31-10 in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, 2009 in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)


Slight adds motivation for Brandon Myers

April 19, 2009
Iowa's Brandon Myers misses a pass during the fourth quarter against Northwestern at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on September 27,  2008. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Iowa's Brandon Myers misses a pass during the fourth quarter against Northwestern at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on September 27, 2008. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Brandon Myers thought he had played himself into the draft discussion.

Good statistics. Started every game for a team that won nine games. Converted three third-down catches into first downs in a bowl game. All-Big Ten selection by the league’s coaches.

But Myers, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end from Prairie City, wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine in February. Initially, it hit him hard that NFL scouts didn’t think he was one of the nation’s top 20 tight end prospects.

“I thought I had good film from this year,” Myers said. “I thought with our success we had and having Shonn (Greene) and Mitch (King) and everyone was watching, getting first-team all-Big Ten, I thought for sure I’d definitely get a shot.

“I was happy for my teammates that got to go but at same thing, I wanted to go. It definitely made me realize I had to work that much more harder and I have that much more to improve. I wasn’t selected in the top 20 tight ends; obviously I have to pick up my game and get better.

Myers, 23, hauled in 34 passes for 441 yards and four touchdowns last year. He earned the Iowa offense’s Coaches Appreciation Award. But neither those statistics or that praise earned him a spot at the NFL Combine.

But that’s not all bad, either. Former Iowa defensive end Aaron Kampman didn’t make the NFL Combine, but he was a fifth-round draft pick. Kampman has played in two Pro Bowls for Green Bay.

“Yeah, that was the first thing Coach (Kirk) Ferentz mentioned to me, which definitely made me feel better,” Myers said. “But obviously I was still disappointed. If things turn out like Aaron Kampman, I’ll be all right with that.”

Myers has gotten some play from NFL scouts and teams within the last month. Scouts from 29 teams watched him and other Hawkeyes compete during pro day in late March. He ran a 4.74 40-yard dash time and had 17 bench press repetitions of 225 pounds.

Myers also has been one of the most active Hawkeyes in taking visits before this weekend’s draft. He’s met with several teams, whose officials conduct interviews similar to those at the combine.

Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Services LLC, doesn’t have Myers ranked as a drafted player. But Shonka said Myers has skills that will help get him into a camp and possibly stick with a team.

“He does catch the ball well,” Shonka said. “He screens off blockers. He’s not a big drive blocker for a tight end, which you don’t have to be. You just have to create a little seam where you have somebody run up inside you. He’s that kind of guy.”

Shonka said Myers has an advantage on other tight ends by playing in Iowa’s pro-style offense.

“A lot of them are more like slot guys than tight ends,” Shonka said. “(Myers is) used to blocking in Iowa’s system. That definitely helps him. If he was drafted late, it would not surprise us, but we think probably going to end up being more like a free-agent guy. He’ll have a chance to go to camp and show what he can do.”

That’s just what Myers wants. He and his agents have discussed potential destinations if he doesn’t get drafted. By early April he had visited four NFL teams and several others would like a closer look at a player the teams didn’t interview at the NFL Combine.

“Obviously I’d love to get drafted,” Myers said. “I think taking these visits, it definitely gets my name out there. It’s kind of like the domino effect where one team hears about other teams hear about it and bring me in. I have no idea if I get drafted or where I will be. I just want a shot, just want a chance. It doesn’t really matter where. I just want an opportunity to play.”


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